March 12, 2007 2:00 am

Siemens fights cuts to low-power bulb prices

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While Europe's leaders were last week urging householders to fit energy-efficient light bulbs, several governments were busy attempting to block moves to cut their price.

A European summit agreed to toughen regulations against old-fashioned incandescent bulbs by 2009 as part of a bid to cut greenhouse gas emissions. But earlier in the week officials from trade ministries rebuffed attempts by the European Commission to end five-year-old surcharges on imports of energy-efficient bulbs from China.

The 66 per cent duty was imposed in 2002 after European manufacturers complained of dumping by the Chinese. It expires in October but Siemens of Germany, which owns the Osram brand, is pushing for an extension. The other big makers, Philips of the Netherlands, which pays a 33 per cent tariff, and GE of the US, disagree. Ending the duty would cut prices to the level of conventional bulbs.

The Commission believes that Osram does not have the requisite 25 per cent of the market to ask for measures but some states, including Italy, this week askedit to do its maths again.

A spokesman said: "The Commission has not yet reached a definitive assessment in this review at this stage. It will do so in the next couple of weeks."

A UK government spokeswoman said: "Replacing just one bulb with an energy-efficient alternative can reduce lighting costs by up to £9 per year, or £100 over the lifetime of the bulb." It also saves tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. Cuba, Venezuela and Australia are to ban incandescent bulbs.

EU diplomats said the late addition of the item to the summit agenda was the personal initiative of Angela Merkel, German chancellor, whose country holds the Union's rotating presidency.

Asked whether she used such bulbs, she said: "Most of the bulbs in my flat are energy-saving bulbs but they are not yet quite bright enough. Sometimes if you drop something on the carpet, you can't always find it." She should expect a knock at the door soon from Siemens.

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